Wednesday, 18 October 2017

#291 Down at the Zoo

Tickleford Grange Safari Park, 1972

Tickleford Grange Safari Park opened with great fanfare in 1972, boasting lions and tigers, giraffes and chimpanzees.  From day one things didn't go well - low visitor numbers, high costs, changes in public perceptions, health & safety law (especially after the unfortunate incident with the keeper and the emu) and demonstrations by animal rights protesters conspired to reduce the safari park firstly to a zoo, then a menagerie and finally nothing more than pets corner.

However, they kept the name Tickleford Zoo and the keepers do their very best to give their animals the best lives they can and provide a memorable experience for visitors.  This can be quite a challenge when the most exciting animals in the zoo are squirrels.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

#290 Stormiphilia

Weird scenes inside the Gully, 
 photo by Strummerman

Yesterday was a day for the Chronicles, a day when people turned to the sky in awe and wonder.  We had all heard on the news about the storms heading across the Atlantic and knew something was going on.  Rumours that the Isle of Wight had broken free of its moorings, been blown across the Solent and was now lodged halfway up Tickleford Gully proved to be unfounded.

In fact, although it was pretty windy, there was very little evidence of a storm.  But it was a day that made people notice the weather.  First the sky turned black, black in the middle of the day.  A kind of purple, yellow black, loaded with menace. It morphed into a pink, orange, red eerie half world.

And then the sun bled orange.

The sun in the daytime
Photo from Sea Shore

At this point many villagers fell to their knees, remembering the stories of what happened last time.  As recorded in the Anglo Saxon Chronicle in the year 685 CE it rained blood.  That same year in Tickleford the crops failed; the village Elder Dirk Cadillac was killed by a raging bullock and milk and butter were turned into blood.  It is believed that the expression
Red sky at night, shepherds delight
Red sky in the morning, shepherds warning
Red sky at noon, trouble come soon
 dates from this period.

Conversation in the village shop was whispered.
It bodes ill, I tell you, no good will come of it
Is it the Rapture, mummy?
I hope so, Pippa, I hope so. 
Do you have any more sweetcorn, Mrs Pasteur?
     No sorry, we've had a real run on it today.  Everyone is stocking up.
Stocking up? Do we need to stock up?
     I'm sure it wouldn't hurt.  I can let you have this box of 48 cans of Lentil Soup for fifty pounds.
     Indeed, indeed.
Before long the proof that bad luck would befall the villagers began to come through.

      Mrs Clarke lost her car keys.
             Mr Jones broke his favourite mug.
                      Carole Jenkins lost her boyfriend and broke his heart.
                              Why does it always happen to me? she said

Proof indeed, indeed, of the bad luck prophecied by the blood red sky.

Meanwhile elsewhere in the world, over 500 people were killed by a truck bomb in Somalia.

Monday, 16 October 2017

#289 Return of the Tickleford Tree Frog

Ribbiters at Victoria Pond, Tickleford

Frog spotters (or Ribbiters as they don't like to be called) from all over have descended on the Gully this weekend as news has spread of a sighting of the Tickleford Tree Frog, a species until recently believed to be extinct.

The Tickleford Tree Frog, immortalised in the book The Naturalist on the River Tickell, A Record of the Adventures, Habits of Animals, Sketches of Village Life and Aspects of Nature, During Eleven Years of Travel by Victorian explorer Jarvis Fields, went unheard and unseen from the end of the 19th century until a few weeks ago.

Let us first of all go back to Fields' writings

March 14th 1888   I feel that we are closer than ever to our quarry, the rare Tree Frog of Tickleford Gully, known locally as the Lily Trotter.  Our beaters tell us they have seen evidence - ripples on a pond here, tiny wet footprints on beech leaves there - and we have all heard the unmistakable sound of the Lily Trotter's mating call, but still a confirmed sighting eludes us.
March 16th 1888  A mood of both elation and desolation has descended upon the camp this evening.  Elation because we were able to establish that the Lily Trotter was definitely in the area, desolation because, well, let me tell you what happened. At seven o'clock this morning the mating call could be heard loud and clear.  The beaters set off to clear a path while we gentlemen explorers tucked into a hearty breakfast of porridge, followed by Egg Serpentine with kippers and tea.  After a much needed rest we set off into the Pines, following the very definite sound of the Tree Frog calling to attract a mate.  The Lily Trotter's mating ritual is simple but effective.  [Fields' Victorian publisher redacted all detailed explanations of mating rituals so we will probably never know].
As we approached the pond the sound became louder and clearer, then suddenly stopped.  Our party searched the area high and low, for several hours, while I supervised, taking the opportunity to scrape the remains of something I had inadvertently trodden on from the sole of my boot.  After about four hours I called off the search as the lunch gong was being sounded.  There was no sign of the Lily Trotter or explanation of its sudden silence.
Tickleford Woods in 1888, significantly more overgrown than today
March 20th 1888  We have not heard the call of the Lily Trotter for several days now but have continued to see visual evidence, such as tiny footprints.  We have come to the conclusion that the Male frog met with an unfortunate accident but that one or more Females are still about.
March 22nd 1888  After two days of tracking we are closer than ever to the lair of what we now believe to be the last Tickleford Tree Frog.  Our mission now is to find her, watch her movements and study her for as long as possible.
Jarvis Fields in search of the Lily Trotter, 1888
March 23rd 1888  Our mission is accomplished.  At first light this morning a messenger from the beaters woke us to say the Last Female Tickleford Tree Frog had been spotted about six feet up in a Beech Tree near the pond (which we have named in honour of our dear Queen). 
I informed the messenger to return to the tree and ensure that the other beaters recorded every movement of the Lily Trotter and that I would be along as soon as practicable.  Following a hearty breakfast of kedgeree and black pudding I made my way to Victoria Pond.  One of the beaters was sketching the frog while another was noting its movements.  I looked over the notes and felt that we now had a reasonable idea of the life of a Tickleford Tree Frog, viz.,
1. Asleep in tree
2. Woke up.
3. Moved to pond.
4. Caught fly.
5. Hopped up tree.
6. Hopped down to pond.
7. Caught fly.
8. Hopped up tree.
9. Hopped down to pond.
10. Caught fly.
This left one more task to complete our study. A spot of chloroform on a lilypad and the last Tickleford Tree Frog (Hyla Lilytrotter Cinerea) was ready to be pinned and mounted.  It sits here before me now, a splendid specimen.  Future generations will thank the explorers and collectors of Her Majesty's Golden Age for preserving these wonderful creatures. 

It is now believed that a litter of frogs survived Jarvis Fields' studying and, in an example of instant evolution, made it through the twentieth century by dropping their distinctive noisy mating call and keeping a low profile.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

#288 Suicide Note Competition Backfires

A competition to win a spa weekend run by local radio station Capital Punishment FM led to the death of popular dj Mick "Max" MacCormick. 

In his own words.
I  did not realise what a world of misery this truly is.  I opened Pandora's Box when I set up the Spa Weekend competition.  I thought I was doing something positive for Mental Health Week, inviting listeners to send in a 'suicide note'.  The best one would win a Spa Weekend which would cheer them up no end, stop them feeling suicidal, and I would have brought a little happiness to the world.
But when the people of Tickleford started sharing their darkest thoughts with me I realised that no-one is happy and I can't save them all.  From school, through college and university, into work; relationships or lack of relationships, advances, unwanted or unconsummated. It seemed some people had nothing, while others were bogged down in owning stuff, amassing stuff, needing to have every new thing, even if they haven't used up the old one.  Some people seemed to be alone with no friends or family, others were drowning under the weight of expectation and obligation to others. Illness, lost teddies, pregnancies, abortions, babies, broken limbs, broken down cars, broken down houses.
You would not believe some of the things listeners have to live through.  It's a wonder they can get up in the morning.  And there's me bouncing around like Tigger every day joking about every stupid thing, trying to sell them every stupid thing, playing disgraceful music that's not fit to wipe your boots on, laughing and smiling when there's a madman in the White House who is spoiling for a fight with North Korea or Iran or his own Good Old Party and a fool in Downing Street who couldn't fight her way out of a plastic bag.
Yesterday none of this mattered but now, now that Pandora's Box is open, it can't be closed.  I can't unsee what I've seen and I don't want to see anymore.  Other people's problems overwhelm my mind. I can't go on.  Goodbye.
DJ Max's funeral service will take place at St Titus Church, Tickleford, on Monday 23rd October at 3:00pm, followed by interment in adjoining burial ground.  Family flowers only please, donations in lieu to Gully Bereavement Services.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

#287 The Haunting

Using the latest high tech thermal imagining cameras sci-fi-entists from Tickleford's University of Paranormology obtained these images of four ghostly figures, invisible to the naked eye, at Abbeigh Abbey.

It s not the first time the characters have been seen but it is the first time their likenesses have been captured.  Neither is it known who the four entities are, or why they have chosen to haunt Abbeigh Abbey.  It is surmised they may have been pirates or monks from sometime in the Abbey's past.

The experts, who spent many night hanging around the Abbey themselves in order to capture the images, say they often hear noises in the night, of water splashing and of horses' hooves . Said leading expert Prof Pepper "We think that maybe the ghosts of Abbeigh rowed themselves there and when they left the Abbey rode to their next mysterious destination.  There's still much work to be done to get to the bottom of this".

Friday, 13 October 2017

#286 Sublime Flame Grill Tanning

Barry and Cindy announcing the merger

Two Tickleford businesses announced today they were merging and claimed that the pairing would produce great savings in time and money for their customers.

Barry Grill of Flame Grill Pizzas, Kebabs and Burgers, on Tickleford High Street, said "For years we have provided the people of  Tickleford with gourmet kebabs, haute cuisine burgers and pizzas equal to anything old Ant Carlucci could knock out.  We noticed that our neighbours at Sublime Tanning had different usage patterns to us and realised that by pooling our resources we could provide even better services".

"That's right," agreed Cindy Barbidoll, proprietor of Subprime Tanning.  "Most of out customers get up around midday and come get their tanning in the afternoon.  This means that our tanning beds are lying idle at lunchtime and most of the evening".

"And our grills are very busy at lunchtime and all evening, but nothing much happens in the afternoon.  Working together we can increase our grilling capacity by a hundred per cent at our busy periods . . . "

". . . and we can squeeze more people in during the afternoon.  It's a win-win.  We still keep a couple of beds open all evening so that customers can top up their tan while their pizza is browning".

Regular customer of both the Flame Grill and Sublime Tanning, Cerise Lillywhite, said "It's the answer to my prayers, I've been waiting for this to happen for years, and so have a lot of my mates.  Now we can get a kebab and a tan on the way to Town to get legless and pick up a sailor at the Top Rank".

"Who doesn't want to top up their tan with a Meaty Nudger in their hand?" asks Cindy.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

#285 Nimby Street

 Nimby Street

Residents of the exclusive new development recently opened on the edge of Tickleford Common,  Nimby Street, today announced the establishment of NAG (Nimby Action Group) to oppose building plans in the area.

"As the newest residents of Tickleford Gully we feel it is incumbent upon us to protect the countryside around us," said NAG Chairperson Anne Culldip.

When it was suggested that this was a bit rich as the Nimby Road development was open fields less than a year ago,  Mrs Culldip said "This is exactly what we mean. If people like ourselves don't stand up and be counted then who will? The whole country will be under tarmac."

Nimby Street a year ago

A march has been organised for Sunday afternoon, followed by tea and cake in Mrs Culldip's garden.   We'll give the last word to Mrs C:

"We shall fight fight on the golf courses, we shall fight in the coffee shops, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets and on the hills.  We shall never surrender.  We shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength.  We shall defend our village, whatever the cost."